The role of flora and fauna find a prominent place in Kavita Sharma’s book of tales from the Mahabharata.
If the ethos of India is enshrined in its two great epics, its soul lies in the woodlands that lie at the heart of the compositions of Valmiki and Vyasa,” says Pradip Bhattacharya in his Foreword to a book that seeks to retell some gripping tales from the great epic. Indeed, much action in both the epics, “the very fountainhead of our civilisation” takes place in the forests of the land.
This is more clearly outlined by Kavita Sharma, the author, in her preface: “Apart from active contribution to the events of the main story, tales involving birds and beasts are told to illustrate a code of conduct or a mode of behaviour…What has been put together is certainly not exhaustive and the work itself can be expanded to read the lessons of life in nature as nature speaks not only through birds and beasts but also through rivers, mountains and trees. All creation interacts intimately as heavenly beings, humans, denizens of the animal world and natural phenomenon all take part in the cosmic dance called life.”
The book is divided into eight distinct sections – Introduction; The telling of the tale Adi Parva; Exile in the forest – Vana Parva; Preparation for the war – Udyog Parva; The battle of Kurukshetra; The Aftermath; The duties of a King in times of Crisis – Shanti Parva; The Life of Discipline – Anushansana Parva; and Janamejaya’s Final Lesson – Ashwamedhika Parva, Birds, Beasts, Men and Nature.
Tales from the Mahabharata (TransEdit Communications, New Delhi. Pp. 256. Rs 350) is a compendium of 38 tales randomly picked up from the different parvas of the epic. They follow no fixed pattern, nor are they joined together through a specific undercurrent, except that they have been put in the sequence of appearance and have been selected from Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s rendering of the epic.